Updated on 09/17/2011 10:16AM

Fickle finger of fame

Badge of Silver, with trainer Ronny Werner, may have flipped his palate in his last race.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Before the Louisiana Derby, Badge of Silver was the hottest prospect for the Kentucky Derby. He had run consecutive races in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 108. His trainer, Ronny Werner, was getting inundated with media requests. And Empire Maker had yet to run in the Florida Derby.

What a difference a race makes. Badge of Silver suffered his first career defeat in the Louisiana Derby. One week later, Empire Maker romped in the Florida Derby. Both have their final preps Saturday for the May 3 Kentucky Derby, but the way in which they are perceived now is in stark contrast to just four weeks ago.

Empire Maker, who runs in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, is the hot favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Badge of Silver, who will run here at Keeneland in the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, has made Werner as lonely as the Maytag repairman.

"I got at least three calls a day, every day, between the Risen Star and the Louisiana Derby," the good-natured Werner said at his Keeneland barn the other morning. "Going into the Blue Grass, I've hardly had any calls. It's funny. One bad race and they get off quick."

The phone will ring anew if Badge of Silver can recapture his best form in the Blue Grass. He is expected to take on eight rivals in the race, most notably Peace Rules, who won the Louisiana Derby. The other top contenders for the race are Brancusi, who was third behind Buddy Gil in the San Felipe Stakes last month; Great Notion, who was second in the Rebel Stakes in his last start; and Offlee Wild, the winner of the Holy Bull Stakes earlier this year.

The prospective Blue Grass field - for which post positions were scheduled to be drawn on Thursday morning - grew by two on Wednesday when both Lion Tamer and Ten Cents a Shine were added to the field.

Todd Pletcher, who trains Lion Tamer, had been debating whether to run in the Blue Grass or await the $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 19. He said he decided to run in the Blue Grass in part because Lion Tamer will have three weeks to prepare for the Kentucky Derby, rather than just two, if he runs this weekend.

"He's holding his weight well. That's what I was concerned about," Pletcher said. "He's a lightly made horse."

Cornelio Velasquez will ride Lion Tamer, Pletcher said.

Ten Cents a Shine, who was eighth in the San Felipe in his last start, had also been considered for Saturday's Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park by trainer D. Wayne Lukas. But Lukas did not even bother to enter Ten Cents a Shine on Wednesday in the Arkansas Derby.

"We're running in the Blue Grass," Lukas said in the Keeneland paddock before Wednesday's first race. "Mike Smith will ride."

Crowned Dancer, one of the race's longshots, worked a half-mile Wednesday morning at the training center owned by his trainer, Chris Paasch, who said Crowned Dancer was timed in 48.40 seconds.

Because of his Louisiana Derby win, Peace Rules could be a slight favorite in the Blue Grass. But Badge of Silver ran three spectacular races to begin his career, and Werner said the colt had an excuse for his fifth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby.

Werner theorizes that Badge of Silver had a breathing problem in the Louisiana Derby - when he faded in the stretch after moving easily to engage the leaders - and he has taken steps to correct it. The colt had throat surgery last month, and on Saturday he will be outfitted with a new bridle, one designed to further guard against the chances of displacing his palate.

"There are three things that could have caused him to stop," Werner said. "You can bleed bad, hurt a leg, or you can't breath. He pulled up good, and he didn't bleed."

The bridle is a drop noseband, commonly called a flash noseband. An extra leather strip loops around a horse's chin, which helps prevent a horse from moving the bit or displacing his palate. Peace Rules, for instance, wore one in the Louisiana Derby.

"It keeps his mouth shut," Werner said. "I also use a tongue tie on him. The flash is good because you don't get a lot of dirt in your mouth and down your throat. It helps a horse from displacing. I wanted Badge to wear one before, but when I trained him in it, he didn't like it much. I left it off because he was winning. Now, I'm making him take it."

Werner said he has had mixed success with the throat surgery.

"With some, it's a complete turnaround, and with some, you don't see any improvement," Werner said. "I've had some where the difference was night and day. The way I look at it is there's no downside to it. You eliminate the possibility of him doing it again.

"But you really don't know how it'll hold up until the heat of battle," Werner added. "The mile work he had last week was a pretty good indication. He worked comfortable, and he came back good. I had to put a lip chain on him the next day because he was bucking and playing. It didn't take much out of him.

"He had one bad race. We're doing everything we can to fix that. We know he was a good horse before his last race. To me, he's still the same horse he was."